It’s Time to Embrace Front End as A Service

Front-end-as-a-Service (FaaS) is emerging as a key B2B e-commerce differentiator. In August, Gartner predicted a coming paradigm shift away from monolithic commerce platforms toward modular ones, a move the analyst firm defines as meaning “composable” commerce must be adopted for the future of applications. But what’s really going on?

You won’t get FaaS until you understand composable

FaaS has emerged out of “composable” digital business architectures—the way we build platforms to provision e-commerce as a deliverable has started to break up (decompose). Some providers have switched their attention to the back end, positioning themselves as focused on the product information management (PIM) end, leaving the middle and the front end of such platforms to new entrants. For Gartner, it’s a “growing reality” for digitally mature organizations that digital commerce should no longer be a monolithic silo of engagement. “This goes beyond consistency across channels,” it says, “to mean a unified end-to-end customer journey, including engagement and post-sales relationships and support.”

As a result, developers are now looking to link these three modular layers of an e-commerce solution together. More importantly, the shift means we can also start to see e-commerce in very different (and more flexible) ways—thus Gartner’s talk of “a shift in thinking from an inward-looking “platform-centric” view to an outward-looking customer-experience-centric view”.

Back end + front end

But that’s abstract software architecture. What’s the business advantage in having a cloud-based front end you can swap in and out? The answer is straightforward—it’s about speed. With composable merchant and payment software, implementing innovative new components like a new checkout option in your online store, or going from multi-page checkout to a one-page checkout is very straightforward in a front end as a service environment. In the monolithic, older e-commerce world, rapid pivots and extensions take considerable developer time and resources.

And in the old model, whenever you wanted to deploy a new customer experience, you had to do it via the back end and front end. In a new FaaS world, those teams are separate, each can have its own area of responsibility and can work independently, leading to a higher speed of development and more innovation. An e-commerce front end delivered as SaaS makes the development of the product’s front-end reliable and organized. The focus is on serviceability, so every nuance of the front-end becomes deliverable. The FaaS approach is emerging as a crucial part of faster solutions.

As a result, Gartner says by 2023 50% of all new commerce capabilities will be incorporated as API-centric SaaS services. By the same timeframe, organizations that have adopted a composable approach will be 80% faster than their competitors in new feature implementation. Last but not least, decoupling will become an enabler for the acceleration of a composable application approach.

A flexible marketplace front end as a service offering

Front end as a service is very welcome and powerful. But there are risks. To make the most of the FaaS opportunity you need to be looking for a flexible marketplace front end as a service offering.

In a composable commerce world, after all, you can design any workflow you can imagine. But without a proper front end as a service application that can bring this experience to your customer, it will be very hard to differentiate yourself from the competition. And when every start-up and asymmetrical competitor is making its mark and steal your market share, agility has become a necessity.

Making the customer journey as simple and rewarding as possible

This means that CIOs in organizations serious about e-commerce need to make the decoupling of the frontend and backend a priority. They need to start building a scalable architecture and proprietary tools, as pivoting to a front end as a service design for all future e-commerce work will help them streamline their entire platform and production cycle.

In the near future (and perhaps as soon as 2023 if Gartner is correct in its reading of the market), customers will expect fully-integrated, fully-connected composable e-commerce solutions with very powerful FaaS functionality as standard.

That’s because FaaS will just work better for all stakeholders—vendors of such systems, merchants on these marketplaces, and their users. The bottom line is that FaaS will enable B2B companies, be they new start-ups or established players, to respond quickly and make the customer journey as simple and rewarding as possible.

Alexander Graf is cofounder & co-CEO of marketplace experts Spryker and author of The E-Commerce Book